Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
CONNOLLY, MAJOR JAMES A. - Few names are more familiar in the great State of Illinois and to Sangamon County in particular, than that of Major James A. Connolly, distinguished alike in the profession of law, in military achievements, in political life, and in public service. He was born at Newark, New Jersey, March 8,, 1842, a son of William and Margaret (McGuire) Connolly. Although he came of an agricultural family and environment, James A. Connolly very early gave indications that his life career would reach far beyond his father's field and ambitions. As a boy, he was apt, even when a student in the common schools of Morrow County, Ohio. His ability was still more forcibly shown after he entered Selby Academy, at Chesterville, and later when he was a law student at Mt. Gilead, Ohio. Upon his admission to the Ohio Bar in 1859, he began practice with his former preceptor, Judge Dunn, of Mt. Gilead, and continued with home for one year, when in 1860, he established an office of his own at Charleston, Ill.
In the meantime the Civil War had broken out, and in 1862, the young attorney put aside the rich promise of the future in his profession, to become a member of the One Hundred and Twenty-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry,, assisting in raising a company of which he was elected Captain. On the organization of the regiment, he was chosen Major. With his command, he joined the Army of the Cumberland and was active in all the campaign that closed with the battle of Chattanooga. He was then assigned to duty as Division Inspector of the Fourteenth Army Corps. Major Connolly was afterward connected with Sherman's army on it memorable march to the sea, and accompanied the victorious forces to that great and impressive showing of loyalty and patriotism, the Grand Review at Washington City. On many fields, he had shown his valor as an officer, winning recognition and was awarded the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
After his honorable retirement from military life, Major Connolly returned to Charleston, and there resumed his professional duties continuing the private practice of law until March 1876, when he was appointed Untied States District Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, continuing a incumbent of that office until June, 1885, when he retired on account of a change in the administration. When the Republican party regained ascendancy, he was reappointed to the office, by the late President Harrison, July 1, 1889, and continued to serve through four more years. In the meanwhile, Major Connolly had become a very important factor in State politics, having been twice elected to the State Legislature, there serving on the Judiciary, Railway and Library committees. In 1886, he was the candidate of his part for Congress and in the contest carried both his own and Morgan Counties, reducing the normal Democratic majority of 4,000 to 900. In 1888, he refused a second nomination for Congress, but, in 1894, and again in 1896, he was re-nominated, in each case being elected. In May,1 884, he was appointed Solicitor of the Treasury, by President Arthur, an appointment confirmed by the United States Senate, but he declined the honor. In 1888, he was a candidate before the Republican State Convention for Governor, and received a flattering vote. In 1886, he entered into a law-partnership with Thomas C. Mather, which continued until the death of the latter. His present partner is Carey E. Barnes.
Major Connolly was married at Gabier, Ohio, February 9, 1863, to Mary Dunn, daughter of Jacob Dunn and sister of his former preceptor and law partner, Judge Dunn. Major and Mrs. Connolly attend the services at the First Presbyterian Church, Springfield. He is fraternally affiliated with the Masons, the Elks, and Loyal Legion and belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic, having been Department Commander of the latter for 1910-11.